ADR Recovery

This blog chronicles my recovery from a new type of major back surgery, Artificial Disc Replacement (ADR). I injured my back at L5/S1 when I was 9 and have always struggled with back pain, but was unable to walk after a minor car accident in ‘05. Research became my second job and with the support of my family and friends, I decided go under the knife. My intention is to keep my friends updated while I recover and help others who are suffering with back pain understand the recovery process.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ADR Support

This site is a great resource for people interested in ADR or suffering from back pain

Friday, June 30, 2006

The Big-D

Thanks to the Dallas crew for showing me a good time during my visit for my 6-week post-op. A special congrat's to my favorite new home owners below who treated me to a tour of their new place and even made a pound cake!

Monday, June 26, 2006

Jerry, Out Pet Squirrel

When my parents first moved to their new house they imminently noticed a furry friend hovering by the breakfast windows each morning. He was so cute and skinny… poor Jerry, as we affectingly called him, looked like he could use a good meal. My sister was the one who started throwing the cashew nuts by the breakfast window for Jerry to snack on. We’d all watch with delight each morning as Jerry joined us for breakfast. He’d give us a cute little show with his tale, almost like he was thanking us in his own little way for our generosity. We’d laugh and smile, pat ourselves on the back for our good deed for the day.

We’ll no good deed goes unpunished. Jerry has started looking like the rest of family - meaning he’s got a spare tire. Our once slender friend looks less like the cute little squirrel we once knew and more like a giant rat with a tail. He is so lethargic that he doesn’t do his delightful dance anymore either! Jerry simply hordes the cashews and gobbles them up as fast as possible. I get a stomach ache just watching him go; you’d think he was in a hot dog eating competition with that Skinny Korean chick who always wins on ESPN.

I feel responsible for Jerry’s unhealthy weight gain and I worry that he, like my pet goldfish, Tiger, will explode after gorging himself. (Please don’t tell PETA) The question now is; how do you put your pet squirrel on a diet?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

The evil E! and the CPA exam

Wow - I can't believe I made it this far! This past month has dragged so slowly I thought I might go nuts.

Today I read an entire book... Then watched the "Batman" marathon on HBO. I'm trying to be more "productive" during the day. Earlier this week I was devastated with the rumors that Justin Timberlake and Cameron Diaz had broken up... That was an important moment - I realized that I really need to get a life and back away from the television and the E! Network. (I think I am dumber from watching all those "101 worst boobs in Hollywood" shows) I had completely lost track of the days of the week... It's scary how those meaningless shows just suck you in... And take away all desire to get off the sofa.

So, to enforce my new motto; I ordered my CPA books and have created a study plan for passing my remaining parts of the exam. The 10 lb books arrived today and when the FedEx guy handed them to me I had to drop them on the floor. My backs been hurting ever since. (I'm not supposed to lift more than 3 lbs) Pain or no pain, I'm going to start studying tomorrow (hence the "Batman" marathon) I think it will be hard going cold turkey from E!, but knocking out the exam will take a lot of stress off of me when I get back to work this fall.

In other news - I have no idea why I ever became an accountant. Seriously, what was SO wrong with Marketing or Horticulture?

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

3 Miles

Today I walked nearly 3 miles and I still feel great!!!! YEA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Freaky Friday

I woke up Friday in a lot of pain. I couldn't get dressed or out of bed until nearly 4 pm. Needless to say, I freaked out and called my doctor. They told me that if things did not improve by Monday then something was very wrong and I needed X-Rays. The disc has not grown into my spine completely so it can still move. Sudden, severe pain indicates that the disc may have moved. I won't bore you explaining, but you really don't want the disc to move. (think - metal plates next to spinal cord) In other bad news I had to increase my Oxy to get through the weekend.

Thankfully I felt a little better Saturday and today Sunday. I still don't feel as good as I did on Thursday, but can't think of what I could have done to move the disc. I'm hoping that I just aggravated the nerves or muscles. My legs were so weak when I had surgery I could hardly lift them. Now I am building their strength again but they get sore by doing very little.

My 6 wk post-op is only a week away and I can't wait. The waiting is so nerve wracking, every time I feel pain I worry that I've done something wrong. I don't know if I can handle more problems with my back at this point..... Keep your fingers crossed.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Rude Awaking!!!

The hospital called at 8:30 this morning - a full 3 hours before my normal wake-up.

I've been arguing with the hospital and my old doctor about my billing for my emergency surgery in April. They say it was urgent, not emergency which makes a big difference in how much my insurance will pay.

I went to the doctor that morning thinking I would be home in 40 minutes, then would head to work; I didn't even have my makeup with me. I was diagnosed at 10 am and was waiting for a OR at 1 pm. There was no time; I went straight to the hospital, Jeff raced home from work and I came home the next day with stitches. I had to sign a release form for the doctor to remove my ovary because there was a chance I wouldn't have it when I woke up.

If that isn't considered emergency surgery, what is????

I've also learned that despite spending a full 24 hours in the hospital, I was never admitted. They all agree that I needed the surgery "urgently" that it would not have been wise to wait a day, but it's not an emergency!

I think my head is going to explode!

Seriously, I think my head is going to explode all over these bills and insurance crap. I can't talk about this anymore...

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Over the hump

It's day 27 post-op and I've finally started feeling like a normal person again! I'm only taking 5 Oxy each day so I'm not drugged up all the time and hope to be off the med's in the next 2 weeks. I've been keeping busy by paying bills, making phone calls and watching lots of bad television....

Mom took me to see "Cars" yesterday, it was great to really get out. I had to stand during a lot of the movie, but it was still fun. Also, I walked 2.5 miles yesterday and still felt great!

I was in a bad mood yesterday after talking to my old insurance company, United Healthcare. They are denying my facet joint blocks - test to determine if my facet joints are a pain generator - so now I have to fill out an appeal. The procedure cost about $13,000. In total I have over $15,000 in appeals with UHC.

Here's what bothers me; I have good insurance, I have a good paying job, but I couldn't afford to pay these bills if I had to. What are people supposed to do? I had no idea that they wouldn't cover this procedure when it was performed. I was in so much pain, I needed to figure out what was wrong and my doctor advised me to have this test, I never thought an insurance company would have a problem with that! The more I deal with the insurance companies the more angry I get.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Another one bites the dust!

My close friend and partner in numerous crimes has bitten the bullet and accepted a large diamond ring from her college sweetheart while on vacation in Mexico.

Boy's - she's officially off the market!

The wedding may be months or years away, but I was awake until 2:30 am watching Bridezilla on the WE! She's already agreed to let me plan the blachlorette party, so now I have even more incentive to get well; we have to dance on a bar or table one more time for old times sake!

Congratulations Kim and Mike!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Dog Days

I was complaining to Jeff that no one could take me for my daily walk; that I was stuck inside all day bored wondering around the house when he started cracking up... He said I sound like a lonely dog waiting for attention and it's owners to have "play time". I guess that's better than being a baby. I think I've officially graduated from Baby status to Doggie status.

Now I can get out of bed by myself, take normal showers and I've learned how to put on my pants without help! (You have to lean against a wall to keep your back straight and go one foot at a time) I can't tell you how fun it is having your Mom put on your pants.... lol.... one day I dropped them too far when using a public restroom and had to have my Mom come into the bathroom and help me... my pride points dropped to an all time low that day.

I'm learning new way to do everything, I'm actually quite good at picking up random stuff with my feet and though it disgusts my sister, Bridezilla, it works. I have a grabber, aptly named "the golden retriever" for it's fashionable gold color, but it's always at the other end of the house when I need it. I also wear a hoddie sweatshirt with a pocket most of the day so I can carry my phone with me around the house and don't have to change positions when it rings. I love contact from the outside world so I never want to miss a call! (aka if you haven't called me in a few days you should call me!)

I'm started to get "island fever" and this puppy is losing interest in everything.... I just want to get out. I've read about 7 books, watched every episode of Law & Order SVU, a ton of bad movies and surfed the entire web, but nothing is really interesting... I just want to escape the pound!!!! My keeper (Mom) has promised to take me to a movie tomorrow... I think she saw how down I was today; she came home with a scrapbook project for me.

Jeff and Bridezilla are flying up on Thursday so I'll have some new people to entertain me and my poor mother will get a much needed break..... If you have any suggestions for things to do please let me know....

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Rx Sticker Fun!!!

I usually don't take notice of the stickers on my Rx bottles... you know what they look like, you know what they mean, right? Maybe not. Take a look at a few common Rx stickers taken from my assorted pill bottles.... See if you can figure it out!

Martini Glass = Don't drink martini's while taking this medication - beer and wine are fine

Bread = Make sure you eat something before taking this like a nice slice of bread! Brought to you by the bread industry.

Googlie Eye = Medication causes drowsiness or dizziness and your eye to swell into that of a cartoon character.

Dynamite = Yes people, that is a piece if dynamite!!! My only question is - Am I going to explode if I take this?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The big 2-0!

I've hit the big 2-0!!! Which means the disc is now starting to grow into the bone in my back. At six weeks the device will be permanent... Which will be a huge relief. Knowing that I have an unstable piece of metal in my back is a bit un-nerving.

I'm feeling good and trying to walk at least 2 miles a day. I've even been able to reduce my Med's... Which is really good b/c narcotics scare me.
Jeff sent me a dozen roses to mark the occasion!

Overall these past few weeks have been okay, I have good and bad days. Not being able to bend is very frustrating.... I'm counting down the days until my 6 week post op.

On a bright note I was able to go to a movie today... "The break-up" which wasn't as funny as the previews showed... It was actually a bit depressing. Jennifer Aniston played "Rachel" again.... Somehow I'm not surprised! Did I mention that I got within 10 feet of her when I was on GMA? There was a strict "do not approach or take pictures of Ms. Aniston" rule so I didn't get to say hello, but she does look great in person.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The $67,582.72 Bill

I woke up this morning with a lot of burning pain, nerve pain, but am still taking fewer OXY then prescribed. I’m down to about 7 a day, which I think is good considering I’m only 13 days post-op. It’s pouring rain in Houston so I haven’t made my daily walk and with the slick sidewalks I doubt I will. I get very nervous walking up and down stairs or slippery floors. From all my research I know that a fall this early in my recovery could have detrimental consequences. I’m constantly worried each time I go up the stairs in our house and when I accidentally twist a little, I agonize over it.

No one ever tells you how hard the first 6 weeks after surgery are. Try to get through an hour without twisting or bending while keeping your back straight and moving in a “unit”; it’s a lot harder than it sounds. It’s a small price to pay for the ability to walk, but right now it’s tough.

I’m a little down today because I finally sat down and started looking at my medical bills….. Which in retrospect was a bad idea. I think I’ve broken into tears twice already; I used to be such a tough girl with this crap. The hospital bill for my surgery is $67,582.72!!!!! (This does not include any of the 7 doctors I saw during my surgery and hospital stay). My co-pay won’t be nearly that much, but numbers like that take my breath away. When I presented my parents with the bill they could only muster “you should have been a doctor”.

I expected some insane number like that for my back surgery, but I didn’t expect to have problems with my emergency surgery. In early April I was rushed into the OR with a large ovarian cyst that was causing internal bleeding. None of the doctors could understand how I hadn’t felt the warning signs for something so serious until they understood the amount of painkillers I was taking for my back. My insurance company considered the surgery “elective” which requires me to pay 10% of the nearly $20,000 in charges, where an emergency surgery only requires a $100 co-pay. I tried to explain to the insurance company that if I had “elected” not to have the surgery I would be dead, but it didn’t matter. I’m going to appeal it, which will take hours of phone calls and letters and listening to lousy elevator music while on hold…

As I listen to Kenny-G while on hold I often wonder if the hold music is really a companies secret weapon. Think about it; they are torturing you with music and annoying ads that repeat every 3 minutes… have you wondered if their real intention is to make you hang up and leave them alone? I know I’ve succumb to the pressure to slam down the receiver more than once when “I will always love you” repeated.

Four Thousand Steps

Jeff and I were talking over the weekend and realized that during the stress of the surgery, move and recovery we completely forgot about our four-year anniversary which was May 25th, hopefully we’ll be able to go on a trip this fall to celebrate properly. It’s hard to believe we’ve been together so long… I don’t know what I would do without him. Here's is picture of us the summer we first started dating :0)

I hope everyone enjoyed Memorial Day. My Dad’s been taking me for walks every afternoon around the golf course. (I wear a pedometer all day so I know exactly how much I’m doing.) On Sunday I walked a total of 4,200 steps, which is about 2 miles!!! I wasn't even sore the next day, which was the better news!

On Monday I was in good enough shape to go out for dinner and was even able to squeeze into my jeans. I feel good and am trying to rest often and not overdo it. I still can’t believe how much I’m able to do this early…. I haven’t walked 2 miles in a long... long.... long... time!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

May 20th, 3 Day Post-Op

Here I am the day I came home from the hospital. I wanted to show off my swollen stomach and fashionable new brace! The swelling doesn't show up well in this photo; but both my parents swear I looked about 5 months pregnant. These pants are XL sweats and I wore M before checking into the OR. Thanks for all the flowers! (in the background)

GMA Pictures!

LEFT: Robin Roberts, Dr. Tim Johnson, and me, right before camera's started to roll. Behind Robin were several camera's and lights, it was difficult to focus on her and not read or watch what was happening around me. I still haven't seen the segment, but was told I didn't curse, say Umm or look stupid, so overall I'm pleased!

RIGHT: The wonderful, Dr. Tim Johnson took me on a mini-tour of the GMA studio before I left for the day. He snagged Charlie Gibson in Times Square so I could say hello. Upon meeting me, Charlie said "I've seen you dancing on World News Tonight 4 nights this week; you've been on more than I have!" :0) Talk about making a girls day!

10 Days Post-Op

10 Days Post of and I still haven't been able to wash off the Sharpe marks of my mid-line made during surgery. As you can see, I'm still pretty swollen, but overall I've lost 6 pounds since I had surgery. The two small scars on the right and left are from my emergency surgery in April, along with my funny looking belly button which appears to be not centered.... I know I shouldn't care about how the scars look, because I can walk now... But it's hard to look at. When I first took off the bandage a few days ago I started crying. Jeff and my Mom kept telling me that it didn't matter; no one would ever see it.... But I see it and it reminds me of all that's happened. Some people get tattoos', I have major surgery. At least it's only on my stomach. My back, the source of so much pain is beautiful and scar free.